Road Trip

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JOURNAL ENTRY FROM JANUARY 3, 2021…

picture of VW bus with camper top lifted and the light on admits snowy mountains

I expected to see ski bums, farmers, & hillbillies. Why else drive 3,000 miles instead of fly from California to D.C.?

I wanted to experience these people’s daily rhythms in places I had never visited. The problem is that daily rhythms and communal cultures don’t travel at 84 mph on I-80 East.

— 

I wanted to see these fly-over states with my own eyes and prove the stigmas wrong.

But I couldn’t. I saw a lot of desert in Nevada, Sagebrush in Wyoming, cornfields in Nebraska,

And small towns in Western Pennsylvania gutted when industry left.

Why is this what I saw and what I remember? Because it was what I expected to see?

Partially yes, but more than that, it is because these sweeping generalizations, That I wanted to disprove,

Are true – partially.

There is a lot of desert in Nevada, Sagebrush in Wyoming, Cornfields in Nebraska,

And small towns in Western Pennsylvania gutted when industry left.

But … There is more, so much more to all of these places. I know it is true but I just didn’t prove it this time.

Because everyday people living their daily rhythm Don’t travel at 84 mph on I-80 East.

image of open field at sunrise at the black canyon of the gunnison in colorado

Last Winter, I decided that a roadtrip was what I needed to clear my blues away. I was a year into law school and dreading just about every minute of it. I hadn’t taken a break in school since I had started, so the Winter quarter would be my “Summer Break.”

Getting out on the road and seeing something different has always been my drug of choice. Every so often, if I don’t have my regular dose of mild adventure, I start to feel cooped up by my daily routine and the anxiety wells up until I let it release through a change of pace.

Well, law school had me feeling cooped up – I was feeling borderline claustrophobic come Thanksgiving. All I was holding on to was this impending road trip. It was the carrot dangling in front of my nose, pulling me through the last weeks of class and finals until I would finally be free.

Free. Freed. Freedom.

In all its various forms, freedom is my muse and my crutch. It props me up through the promise of its eventual arrival. But it’s also a ball and chain – holding me back from experiencing what is right in front of me; convincing me that ‘better’ is out there instead of right here.

This is partially why my stint in law school felt like such a battle. I had placed such a high value on freedom that once I had voluntarily relinquished it for a time in order to pursue something requiring unfettered commitment – and then that something wasn’t what I wanted it to be – I had felt like I had given my greatest prize in exchange for fool’s gold. I was reminded of my deal-gone-sour every time I walked into class; smiling and sitting still on the outside, but standing and screaming on the inside, “I shouldn’t be here!”

I can’t believe it’s finally here! Time to get out on the open road and leave all of my anxieties behind.

I’m choosing this. For once I get to decide everything about my life – go where I want to go, stop where I want to stop, spend my time how I want to spend it.

I couldn’t be more ready for this and I’m already dreading the ending.

Over the next three weeks, I made a loop out of the United States. Texas to Colorado – to Nevada – to California – back to Utah – to Nebraska – to Illinois – to D.C. – back to Tennessee – To Texas.

Some of it alone, some with my sister, and some with my very patient wife.

My greatest hopes, fears, and worries were all answered in the affirmative. Yes, it felt comforting to feel small and unknown in the vast expanse of the great outdoors. Yes, it is simpler, faster, and easier to go it alone – but yes, it is as lonely as you feared it might be. Most importantly, yes, your problems stay the same even as everything around you changes.

Slow drivers still presented growth opportunities for me to respond kindly instead of what still felt like the most natural response (#@*%!). Having space to slow down and think only made the voices in my head louder (“Mental note – train the voices in your head to be nicer”). Finally, even though the people around you can be your greatest source of consternation, they will always be your greatest source of joy.

I’m still sorting out everything that trip taught me, and while I see how childish a lot of my reasons for going were – I wouldn’t change the going part. I am grateful that I could learn about myself, make mistakes, and wake up the next morning to try it all over again.

I wanted to see something different on that Winter break, and I saw 10,000 miles worth of different. It didn’t solve everything or anything for me – but it was everything I needed it to be.

picture of three people with arms around each other looking at lake in yosemite

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